There’s an Antidote to America’s Long Economic Malaise: College Towns

Source: Bob Davis, Wall Street Journal, December 12, 2016

Many places that bounced back from losing jobs to China are home to a major university. ….

….Each state has at least one land-grant institution, initially funded by a grant of federal land or a payout in a program started during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

Land-grant universities were required to focus on agriculture and engineering—which turned into a broad applied research mission—and to promote their work statewide. Such institutions became a kind of natural experiment.

The result was that many land-grant counties became economic stars over time, even though those counties differed little from others nearby.

Between the late 1860s and 1940, manufacturing productivity in counties with land-grant universities rose 57% more than in similar counties without them, calculates Shimeng Liu, an economist at Jinan University in China who studied land-grant colleges when he was a researcher in the U.S.

Since 2000, the median unemployment rate in counties with flagship land-grant universities was 1.2 percentage points lower on average than in other counties, according to an analysis by the Journal…..